OTLA intervenes in landmark hearing on summary judgment

July 2011 OTLA was one of five intervenors invited by the Court of Appeal for Ontario to participate in a special five-judge panel to consider recent changes to the summary judgment rules. Board members Allan Rouben and Ron Bohm represented OTLA at the hearings which could be considered one of the most important matters in the province’s legal history – a procedure known as a summary judgment motion.

Unlike the positions submitted by the other intervenors, which generally supported the rule change, OTLA’s submission questioned whether a liberal interpretation of Ontario’s new summary judgment rule actually will make it easier for litigants to get faster access to justice in the province’s court system.

Allan Rouben argued that the summary judgment procedure was not suitable for certain types of complex cases and that concerns for speed and efficiency should not take precedence over justice to the parties. He also argued that there is a flaw in the argument that summary judgments might save litigants costs. That might be the case if the motion is successful, but he said the procedure has the exact opposite effect if the motion fails and the litigants must then foot the bill for a full-blown trial.

In June, over three days of hearings, a five-judge panel from the Ontario Court of Appeal sat to hear arguments on how much power provincial judges should have to decide the fate of lawsuits before they proceed to full blown trials. Last year, Ontario amended its court rules to empower judges to make final decisions on lawsuits at an early stage of the proceedings. On what is known as a motion for summary judgment, a judge can now make significant findings of fact. That empowers the judge to decide whether the matter requires a full-blown trial, or whether it can be decided on the bench at the end of the motion.

The hearings discussed four court matters that received summary judgment decisions under the new rules, in an effort to provide the legal profession with clear guidance on how the new and more powerful summary judgment rule can be used to wind up cases more quickly.

The factums of the intervenors are available by clicking on the links below:

You can read more about the summary judgment hearing and OTLA’s submission as an intervenor by clicking on these links to articles by the National Post.